Called to Holiness

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INTRODUCTION: Last week we talked about being Called to Community. Continuing that theme, this week I would like to talk about being “Called to Holiness.” We saw that Community was one of the four purposes for our church. Well, holiness also ties in with our four purposes, in this case the fourth purpose, which is Cultivation, or Growing in Christ-likeness. Part of being a Christian is growing to be like Christ. In fact, that’s what the word Christian means. It means a “Christ-one,” a follower of Christ, one who is growing to be like Christ. And part of growing in Christ-likeness is growing in holiness.

Do you think of yourself as a holy person? Do you even want to think of yourself as a holy person, or does that make you nervous? I want to talk with you about holiness this morning and hopefully help you understand what holiness is all about – who it is meant for, what it is not, how we may actually grow to be holy people, and why you would want to!

I. God calls you to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

The first thing you need to understand about holiness is that God calls you to be holy. Holiness is not something just for pastors or missionaries or church leaders. God calls all people to holiness. 1 Peter 1 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

God is holy. He is pure. He is without sin. And he calls you to be like him. You might say, “Well that’s a pretty tall order.” Yes it is. And yet the Scripture is clear. Just as God who called you is holy, so he calls you to be holy in all you do. God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.”

    A. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

The Bible says: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) People are always wondering what God’s will is. “If only I knew what God’s will was for my life, I would be sure to follow it!” they say. Well 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells you at least part of God’s will for your life. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”

That word “sanctified” comes from the same word as “holiness.” It means to be “consecrated or set apart.” It is God’s will that you should be set apart for him, that you should “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) As Christians we no longer live for ourselves or our own sinful desires, but we are called to live for God. We are all called to holiness.

    B. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Let me give you one more verse that confirms that all Christians are called to holiness and not just a select few. Hebrews 12:14 says this, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) Did you get that? Without holiness no one will see the Lord. Holiness is not optional for the Christian. It is required of us all. Holiness is a pre-requisite to heaven. Without holiness no one will see the Lord.

II. Holiness is not what you (may) think it is.

If holiness is that important, we had better understand what holiness is and what holiness is not. I would like to take a few moments this morning to demystify this term holiness for you. A lot of people have misunderstandings of what holiness is all about. Holiness is not what you may think it is.

    A. Holiness does not mean acting “strange.”

First of all, holiness does not mean acting “strange.” Some people get the idea that if they are holy they will have to walk around with a glazed look in their eye wearing a white robe and speaking in sermonic tones. But holiness does not mean acting like a weirdo. Yes, holiness means that you will act differently in a number of areas than much of the world does; you will probably stand out; some people may even think you are strange; but it does not mean acting like a religious psycho from the movies.

    B. Holiness is not separated from practical daily living.

Secondly, holiness is not separated from practical daily living. Have you ever heard the expression: “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.” It is a clever saying, but it makes it sound like if you focus on God too much, then you won’t be of any practical use to people down here. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We should be heavenly minded. Colossians 3:2 says: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) But setting your mind on things above does not free you from your obligations to other people. On the contrary, setting your mind on things above frees you from the unhealthy attachment to earthly things that keeps you from loving and serving your neighbor as you should.

Holiness does not mean that you sit off in the corner of some meadow somewhere only thinking thoughts about God. Yes, you will spend time in the Bible and in prayer with God. But that time with God will send you back into the world to love your family, to serve your community, to work hard at school or your job, to do all things here on earth to the glory of God. Holiness will actually make you a happier, better adjusted, more peaceful and more useful person here on earth, not the other way around.

    C. Holiness is not achieved through self-will or determination.

And then thirdly, holiness is not achieved through self-will or determination. A lot of people think that holiness is something that you are supposed to achieve on your own. They think it is a matter of self-effort applied against bad behavior or habits. But holiness does not simply have to do with my behavior. It is about my very nature.

The Bible tells me that my nature is soiled by sin. I do not simply commit sinful acts. I am a sinful person. In fact, the reason I commit those sinful acts is because I am a sinner. And because I am a sinner I have a much bigger problem than just my behavior. I not only do wrongful deeds; I think wrong thoughts, and I have wrong desires. It’s not that I have to clean up my act before God. I need to clean out my heart. I need to change my very nature. And I can’t do that by my own efforts. Holiness is not achieved through self-will or determination.

III. Holiness comes through Christ.

So then, how do we become holy? I mean we have already seen how important holiness is. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) I am not holy, and I can’t make myself holy, so that means that I am in big trouble! Holiness is a desired state that is beyond my reach. So how do I get there? The answer is this: holiness comes through Christ. It is the only way.

    A. Jesus died to make you holy. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Jesus died to make you holy. Ephesians 5 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) Jesus knew that without holiness no one will see the Lord. And he knew that we could not make ourselves holy. And so Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He suffered and died on the cross to make you holy, to cleanse you from your sins, and to present you before himself as part of his radiant church, without any stain or blemish.

We often talk about Jesus dying on the cross to forgive us for our sins, but Ephesians says he also died to make you holy. Holiness is not the same as forgiveness. Forgiveness happens right away when you put your trust in Christ as Savior. The moment you believe in Christ, your sins are forgiven and you are given right standing with God. The Bible calls this “justification.” You are justified or “declared innocent of all charges” before God.

Justification is a wonderful thing, but it does not make me holy. The moment I trust Christ I am forgiven, but I am still a sinner and I still have a sinful nature. I may have become a Christian, but now I need to grow as a Christian. The Bible calls this “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process by which I grow in holiness to become more and more like Christ. But I still can’t do it in my own efforts. Jesus died to make me holy, and I must trust him to help me grow.

This is where the spiritual disciplines of reading your Bible, spending time with God in prayer, enjoying Christian fellowship, serving others and sharing your faith come in. It is only as we spend time with God and other believers that we will grow in our sanctification. It is only as we ask God to change us that we will see the changes come.

Yes, it takes effort on our part as well, Hebrews 12 says, “Make every effort … to be holy.” (Hebrews 12:14) But you must ultimately take all your efforts and place them at the disposal of Christ who alone can make you holy. Only Christ can change your heart. And only when Christ has changed your heart will you find yourself growing in holiness.

    B. Growth in holiness is a life-long process. (Philippians 1:6)

One last point I want to make this morning. Growth in holiness is a life-long process. It is easy to get discouraged when we feel like we are not making progress in this area. That is a good time to remember God’s promise to us in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) If God has begun a good work in you through Christ, you may be confident that he will bring it to completion.

That’s not to say we should ever get lazy in our Christian growth. We should make every effort to be holy. But when you fail and you fall, and you will, you can take comfort in God’s forgiveness and in knowing that you are a work in progress. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Praise God!

CONCLUSION: SO, how do you respond to a message on holiness? Let me leave you with three applications.

  1. Confess – First of all, confess. Confess your sins to God, confess that you are a sinner, confess your lack of holiness and your need for a Savior.
  2. Repent – Secondly, repent. Turn away from the sin in your life. Tell God you don’t want to live this way anymore. Ask God to help you change.
  3. Commit – And then thirdly, commit. Commit yourself anew to God and Christ. Perhaps you have grown lazy in your Christian walk. Now is the time to commit yourself again to God and to a life of holiness.

I am convinced that we will never be truly happy in life until we are holy. Holiness is not something just for super-saints or religious weirdos. Holiness is part and parcel of the Christian life. God calls you to be holy, and we should all be growing in holiness, every day of our lives.

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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